CYBER CRIMINALS are increasingly turning to "sextortion" attacks in which they blackmail victims with the threat of exposing explicit photographs or messages, security experts have warned.
Security company ESET said in its We Live Security blog that cyber criminals might try to befriend victims and trick them into sharing pictures, or may use malware to target victims' webcams and take pictures themselves in order to acquire blackmail material,
The FBI issued similar warnings in the US after claiming that sextortion is on the rise, with attackers using methods including searching stolen computer equipment for explicit imagery, hacking social media accounts and using malware to steal images from computers.
Predatory scammers have also been targeting victims via dating sites, ESET said, where the scammer trades pictures with a victim, then threatens them with exposure.
"Even explicit messages can leave daters open to this form of attack," said the firm. "Dating scams are one of the fastest-growing areas of fraud online, with a 27 percent rise year-on-year reported in the UK."
In some cases, children have been targeted and blackmailed into uploading further naked pictures, which were then traded among paedophiles online.
"This is a growing problem," the chief of the cyber crimes unit at the US attorney's office in Los Angeles, Wesley Hsu, told ESET, adding that the threat of exposure in sextortion attacks is particularly distressing as the internet is "quite permanent".
Trend Micro VP of Security Research Rik Ferguson told The INQUIRER, "The easiest way to avoid these kinds of situations is to not take the photos. However, if you do feel that you need to store naked photos of yourself, make sure you're using encryption."
Ferguson explained that some software allows you to drop files into a vault which then automatically encrypts the files.
"Also, remember that people store a lot of sensitive information on laptops, not just photos but personal or financial information, so encrypting this kind of data is recommended," he added. µ